Mark 4:1-20 The Soils and Seeds (VBS follow up)

Mark 4:1-20

The Parable of the Sower

Good Morning. Please grab your Bibles and turn to the Gospel of Mark, chapter 4. If you do not own a Bible, please grab one from the table in the back as our gift to you. Our joy and our prayer is for each and every person to have one.

Now, I said open up to Mark chapter 4, that’s not Romans chapter 8! No, we are taking a 1 week break from Paul’s letter to the churches in Rome and we are going to look at a passage in Marks Gospel.

This past week, as you can see by the decorations that are up, and the pictures that showed before the service, we held Operation Arctic!, our Vacation bible School. The theme and the lessons were exploring the Bible, the coolest Book on the planet. The purpose for doing this is to share the Gospel, the truth and the Good News with children in our community. We were doing our job, the job that God gave us, both as individual believers and as a church body. Right now, I want you to raise your hand if you were at all involved in VBS. That means attended, volunteered, donated, helped set up, or prayed for VBS. Look at how many hands are up.

As I was getting ready for this week, I was reflecting through the work that was going to be done and praying about the results to come. And It took me back to Marks Gospel.

Marks Gospel is a gospel of action, of movement. So now, when he slows down to look at chunks of Jesus teachings, it should be noteworthy.

Now, Marks Gospel is not necessarily in chronological order. However, some scholars estimate that the first three chapters of Marks Gospel take up a year and a half of his ministry. But here Mark slows down and shares some of Jesus teachings, of which Mark admits that these are still just a sampling. We will be looking at the first parable Mark has Jesus sharing, the Parable of the Sower. Over all we will be looking at Mark 4:1-20, but we are going to be breaking it up into sections.

First, I will read Mark 4:1 & the beginning of Verse 2:

 Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. 2 And he was teaching them many things in parables

When I talk to people that have gone over and done tours of Israel, that always tell some of the same stories. One of them is about demonstrations of the unique acoustics that are at play over there. Different hills and rocks and such cause such natural amphitheaters, allowing Jesus to sit on a hill and speak to thousands and have all of them hear him.

Water also makes sound carry. Jesus is being surrounded and pushed back everywhere he stops and here, he finally gets in a boat, gets a little off shore and speaks to those on the shore. The natural amphitheaters and the water allowing the sound to carry allowed this to take place.

Think about that for a moment, there’s more there than meets the eye. God could have chosen any where on Earth for civilization to pop up. Could have chosen anywhere For Israel to be given their piece of Land, anywhere for the Roman Empire to spread to and anywhere for Jesus to be born in and minister to. He also could have caused Jesus’ voice to supernaturally carry and boom so that thousands could here Jesus’ words. Instead he choose this piece of land, where the acoustics provide natural amplification and allowed Jesus words to be heard with out supernatural help, at least volume wise.

And so Jesus did address the crowd. He went in the boat to give himself some room, but he stood and he started teaching. Picking back up with v 2, Jesus relays the following parable:

and in his teaching he said to them: 3 “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. 6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8 And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty fold and sixty fold and a hundredfold.” 9 And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

So this is maybe one of the more famous parables that Jesus tells. It appears in all 3 of the Synoptic Gospels and really kicks off a series of parables here in Marks Gospel. I want to make sure we really look at this and the explanation that Jesus will be giving because there is a lot going on here.

So he starts off with the sower going out to sow some seed. When he does this, there are 4 results that Jesus shares. First, some of the seed was sown on a path, where the ground is hard. The seed is unable to get into the ground and just ends up sitting on top of the soil and being eaten by the birds.

Next, the seed falls on rocky ground. There is some soil there, the seed sprouts quickly, shoots up fast, but has very shallow roots, no foundation. So when the sun comes out it gets scorched and withers and dries out very quickly.

Third, The seed falls among weeds and thorns. It starts to grow there, but the weeds do what weeds due and chokes out the good seed, so that it doesn’t produce any harvest or grain.

So these were the first three of the four that Jesus told us about. Notice that, despite initial outward appearances, none of these three end up yielding positive results. That’s going to end up in a pretty low success percentage. But Jesus is not done and he gives one more example.

Fourthly, the seed is sown onto good soil. It produces grain and yields a harvest that increases its yield. It increases as much as 30 times, 60 times and 100 times.

Jesus lays out these 4 scenarios and then he says something odd. He says, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Doesn’t that seem a little odd to you?

When you are teaching someone, when you are talking to someone, do you usually say things like that? Don’t all ears hear? Shouldn’t all ears hear? Jesus is going to explain that and the meaning of the parable next.

First the reason for parables and meaning of his words. Mark continue on in v 10,

 And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that

they may indeed see but not perceive,
and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.”

When Jesus taught to the public, he taught in parables. He did this on purpose because once he was with his disciples, often when he was with the Twelve, he would then explain the parables and some of the disciples might even understand them.

Jesus here is quoting Isaiah here. The context of that passage in Isaiah is interesting. Its in Isaiah 6, and God asks, whom should I send , who will go for us? Now the use of the word, “us” is a different point for a different time, but Isaiah responds and says, “Send me, Ill go!”

Here is what God tells him his message to the people will be. Isaiah 6, verses 9&10:

Go, and say to this people:

“‘Keep on hearing,[c] but do not understand;
keep on seeing,[d] but do not perceive.’
10 Make the heart of this people dull,[e]

and their ears heavy,
and blind their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”

I then read the study notes for this section and it helps connect what Jesus is saying and what God is saying to Isaiah.

My Bibles study notes say this: The proclamation of the Word is paradoxical in its effect. The prophetic word closes the way of God to those who are rebellious, proud and hypocritical, but opens it to the deaf, the blind, the humble and the poor.

That’s what we see the teachings of Jesus showing us. The parables were used to teach because some people, who were listening to Jesus, were not ready to hear. Sometimes the truth was hidden in these stories. We often see the disciples not understanding even after Jesus explains it to them.

But Jesus says here that they will make sense to those who are in the know. To those who are not in the know, no matter how clear you make it, they will not understand. To those who have hardened hearts, closed ears, the Gospel, the Word of God is foolishness. Paul tells us such in 1 Corinthians 1: 18 &19:

 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

We will understand nothing that Jesus says, without Jesus or the Holy Spirit giving us understanding. Proverbs tells us this, James tells us this, We just saw Isaiah and Paul tell us this and Jesus tells us this.

With that in mind, we turn to Jesus explanation of the parable, picking up in Mark 4:13-20:

13 And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? 14 The sower sows the word. 15 And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. 16 And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. 17 And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.[a] 18 And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, 19 but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 20 But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty fold and sixty fold and a hundredfold.”

So Jesus addresses all four of the situations that he spoke of moments ago. For the most part, this addresses 4 different kinds of people and their responses. However, we could also look at it as four different stages of life or situations where we hear the Word and our responses to it.

So first, Jesus tells us what the seed is that is being sown. It is the Word, it is the Gospel.

The first place the seed is sown is along a well walk, well-worn path. Satan has done such a good job make this path wide and easy, that when the seed is sown, when the word is spoken, there is no hearing at all, no acknowledgment whatsoever. The seeds are sown and immediately it is taken away. Jesus uses a path here in this parable, and he uses a path again in one of the other Gospels. Matthew 7: 13&14, Jesus tells us about 2 different paths in the world.

For the gate is wide and the way is easy[a] that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

Obviously the path that these seeds were sown on was wide and easy.

The next situation is the seed sown on rocky ground, sprouting fast and withering quickly. I see this as someone who hears the word and starts to believe in their head, but has no heart change, no life change and as soon as troubles pop up, they bail. Practically, today, this could be someone who is walking along the path to, who is seeking, who is visiting church and interested in learning and seeking and something happens and turns them away.

The third is seeds sown among the thorns. I look at this and I see two specific instances that we see today. First is those who hear the word and may even intellectually believe, but at least acknowledge some validity to the Word. Yet, instead of changing their lives and handing it over to Christ, they refuse. They say, if I go ahead with this Bible stuff, with this Jesus stuff, Ill have to give up all the things I like in my life. Ill have to quit doing drugs and sleeping around, quit cheating, stealing, quit living for the world and I really don’t want to do that.  The cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.

The second way I see this today is when someone is interested in hearing more, in seeing just what the Gospel is all about, but they are not willing or able to remove themselves from the people around them, friends, family, whatever, and they are so afraid of what those people around them will think that you can never get them into a one on one situation long enough to give them a chance to make a true, decision based on the Gospel.

I had one of these in my life a few years ago. He was mad at God and he would attack Christianity at any and all opportunity. I was able to live my life a way that allowed me to speak into his life IF and that s a big if, IF no one else was around. As soon as someone else was around, he felt, that to keep the image up and not open himself up to ridicule or whatever, he had to go on the offense.

Again, I want to point out that 3 of the 4 situations come away with a negative outcome. Again, see what Jesus said in Matthew, For the gate is wide and the way is easy[a] that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

One of the four, the last of the four is what Jesus desires. The seed sown on Good soil, hearing the word and accepting the Word and producing fruit. Now this section, this situation, this outcome includes all of us who are called children of God. If we are believers, we are in this 4th section here.

And there are a few things I want to point out now that Jesus is done explaining the parable.

First, when you are out there, sharing the seed, sharing the Word of God, most people will reject it in one of those three ways. Only one of the four ways is a positive outcome. I cant stress this enough when it comes to us sharing the Word. Most people will not respond in genuine conversion, at least not right away. Our job as one sowing the seed is not to ensure the good fruit-growing from it. That is the Holy spirits job. Our job is to get the word out there, to get the seed sown.

Paul addresses this in 1 Corinthians 3: verses 6-9:

6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

And here is the thing. We sowed seed this past week. You all here are well experienced with seed planting, helping out after the fire last year, the commodities food boxes each month, things like that. That seed has been and will be sown throughout Bangor and the surrounding communities. At that same time, the odds are against us seeing immediate, long term, genuine results. And whether it is there or not, is out of our control. God is the one to determine whether the seed sprouts and whether fruit grows or whether it doesnt.

The seed that we have all and will all sow throughout the community, many of those seeds wont sprout. God says “Dont worry about that, Ive got that.” Of the seeds that do sprout, not all are going to automatically come here. There are many reasons people will go to certain churches and not to others. Some of those are valid reasons, some of those are petty at best, but plain wrong in many instances.

My point is that God tells us to do what he has entrusted us to do, regardless of what the results are. He tells us to leave the anxiety, the worry, the stress behind and trust in gods goodness and his perfect knowledge, his perfect plan and his perfect will. If those who have heard the Gospel, if they respond, believe and repent, then getting them connected with a Gospel Preaching, Bible Teaching, Believer Discipling church is the number one thing. When we believe, we become part of Gods church, Gods family and so as long as we are committed to a local, discerning and orthodox church, orthodox, meaning right, historical, biblical beliefs. As long as new believers get hooked up with a church like that, they are good. My point in that is that we should not be discouraged if we are doing our job, doing what gods has called us to do and we don’t necessarily, especially early on and right away, see the numerical growth or the outward fruit of those works God calls us to do. The benefit’s of VBS, of commodities, of Fire outreach and relief, are not often or immediately seen. That doesn’t mean we stop doing it. We remember that God is in control of all of it.

Getting believers into Gods word is crucial. If there are no roots for the seed to grow and take hold, what is that root system? If there is an unrealistic expectation that there will be no troubles, that you become a Christian and you get rich and don’t get sick anymore, what is the foundation that shows us what god has and has not promised?

The Bible is where roots can take place. The Bible softens ground. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. One of the stories we shared and taught the kids this week, Matthew 7:24-27:

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

The Bible, the Word of God, Gods revelation of himself and Jesus Christ is that foundation. With Gods word as our foundation, when those rains come, when the thorns try to choke us and when the lack of root system causes issues, we will persevere. God will bring us through. We will not avoid hard situations and we will have the rains come, but God brings us through that with our foundation, our faith, everything still standing.

The last thing I want to point out is the mystery that RC Sproul points out in this parable. I’m going to paraphrase him here. He says, the mystery here is not moral teaching about humans hardness of heart. But instead, the mystery of this parable is the paradox that Gods kingdom, Gods reign, Gods power, is identified here with a fragile seed.

His point is that true power shows up humbly. True leaders will walk with humility. Jesus Christ is God. He is all knowing, all powerful, all everything. He is the King!

And yet, he comes down to us here on Earth as a human baby. He comes down in the must humble way possible. He comes down and he makes himself one of us. He puts off til later his right to reign on earthly as a warrior king and instead he gives up his life to die the most humbling death. The death on the cross. He does this for the forgiveness of our sins.

That is the seed that gets sown, that gets thrown on the soil. That is the seed that was planted in each and everyone of us. So, lastly, take a look and ask, question, look into yourself and see which one of these four results are you? Are you one sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. 17 And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.

Are you one sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, 19 but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.

Or, as I pray everyone here is , are you one sown on good soil, the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”

I ask that you take that question seriously, dont just assume the answer, because those thorns, that rocky ground can trick us and be deceptive. They can look good and inviting and encouraging at first, but in them there is no true transformation, no true regeneration. If there is, if we have that transformation, if the seeds that are sown are sown on what God makes into Good soil, the fruit that comes out of it will be incredible and God will give the increase and fruit will be born thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”

Romans 8:1-11 pt 1 No condemnation in Christ

Romans 8:1-11

The Spirit is greater than the Flesh, PT 1

Good Morning! Please open up your Bibles to Romans chapter 8. If you do not own a Bible, please take one from the table in the back as our gift to you. We have looked at 7 chapters of the Apostle Pauls letter to the churches in Rome. As such we are getting ready to jump in to chapter 8. This is called by some as the Best Chapter in the Bible.

Paul has thus far dealt with practical and deep theological issues, such as salvation, justification, sanctification, regeneration, Original Sin, total Depravity, Penal Substitutionary Atonement, a whole lot of big words for clear, sometimes simple, sometimes not, Biblical truths. And he continues here into chapter 8, with this first part, the part we are dealing with this morning. Paul will deal especially the freedom we have in Christ and the Holy Spirit who gives us that freedom. He deals with the difference between the flesh and the Spirit.

Before we look at Chapter 8, I want to reread the last two verses of Chapter 7, as we continue to remember to look at the context of the passages we look at. No verse in the Bible is in a vacuum. Every verse needs to be looked at in context. So Paul writes in Romans chapter 7, verses 24 & 25:

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

Jesus Christ has delivered us from the law of sin and death. Thanks be to God! Paul had just gotten down talking about the struggle between the flesh and the spirit to do the things of God. Our flesh continues to be corrupted by sin and we continue to fall and give in to temptation. We are being sanctified and we continue to grow in Christ, and we are human beings, with a sinful nature and fighting against powers and principalities.

You read chapter 7 where Paul is talking about his struggles and doing things he knows he shouldn’t do, and you can almost hear him beating himself up. And that feeling, that thought process and that knowledge are what lead to his statement and question in 7:24… Oh wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

And it leads right into his writing that we are looking at this week. Lets go ahead and read Romans chapter 8, verses 1 through 11. I am reading out of the English Standard Version. Again, Romans 8:1-11.

Paul writes:

 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.[a] 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you[b] free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,[c] he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus[d] from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

Theologian Charles Hodge gives an introduction to this chapter of the Bible and shows us what the underlying main point that Paul is making at this section in his letter. Hodge says: The whole of the eighth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans is designed to prove the certain salvation of all who believe. The proposition to be established is, that there is “no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” That is, they can never perish; they can never be so separated from Christ as to come into condemnation.

Now, starting right from the beginning of the section that we are looking at today. Now, as I just said, no verse exists in a vacuum. No verse exists without context. However, verse 1 right here, IF understood correctly and fully, and that’s a BIG IF, verse 1 can be a stand alone verse. There are fewer of thee than we think in the Bible, but they are there. It is obviously placed here in context, coming right after Paul’s inner battle he related in chapter 7. He makes sure we have to know the context by “Therfore,” but within that context, the verse in full is beautiful and complete. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

What a beautiful statement. What an encouraging word that the Holy Spirit gives Paul to write to the churches in Rome and, as part of Gods inspired and inerrant Word of God, onto us.

Paul has made it clear throughout this book and through the rest of his letters that our process of sanctification is, in fact, ongoing. It is not complete and it is not finished. We are still going to trip up and sin in this life. But, if, IF we are in Christ, that’s the main point that we will bring all this back to, but IF we are in Christ, those sins that we will commit, will not condemn us.

For there is now no condemnation in Christ. Outside of Christ, all are condemned. Thats an unfortunate truth. All who are in Christ, are without condemnation. All who are in Christ, are saved, are justified, standing in right legal standing before God, are forgiven. All who are in Christ, have had ALL their sins forgiven, past, present and future. And only if you are in Christ. That condemnation is taken away. That condemnation that is deserved is taken away. We are delivered by grace through faith into the family of God.

Paul is going to talk later in this chapter about us being adopted in his family and us only then becoming children of God and co heirs with Christ. And we will touch much deeper on that then. But my point at the moment and an underlying point of this verse is that there is a very real, very tangible, very necessary difference in our lives and more importantly, in our souls, depending on if we are in Christ or if we are not.

Here is a quick and simple Gospel. God created us to worship him and bring him glory. He created us to be with him. We messed that up. We all sinned. That separates us from God. Sinning comes from worshiping anything and everything except God. Sinning attempts to bring us and others glory instead of God.

Sin corrupts so totally and completely that we cannot stop ourselves from sinning. We cannot not sin. God is a Holy God. He has perfect, Holy Standards. He is also a Just God, meaning that sin needs to be dealt with and not just swept under the rug. The wages of sin is death.

God knew all this before time began and God the Father, God the Son, Jesus Christ, and God the Holy Spirit, the Trinity, One God, Three Persons, they had a plan. That plan was for Jesus, the Son of God, to be born as a human baby, the incarnation. He lived his life as 100% human, but also 100% God. He lived a Holy and sinless life. He showed us what obedience to God looks like, he lived as an example and taught how to rightly interpret the scriptures. Most importantly, he died a death that he didnt deserve. He was crucified for sins he didnt commit.

Because he died without any sins, his blood was sufficient to cover up our sins. His righteousness is enough to cover our natural, innate, all-encompassing unrighteousness. We cannot earn, influence or achieve our salvation in any way. We cannot access Jesus righteousness in any way on our own. No matter how moral, how upstanding, how nice, no matter how law-abiding, conservative or churched we are. None of that matters or affects our salvation or access to Jesus righteousness in any way.

He gives it freely. We have been saved by grace through faith. Faith in Jesus Christ and who God in the Bible tells us he is. Sin blinds us to the Gospel, it blinds us to the saving work of Christ on the cross. The Holy Spirit lifts the veils from our eyes and turns our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. The Holy spirit regenerates us, changes us from the inside out.

When that happens, we become covered in Christs righteousness, so when God looks at us, he does not see our sin, and therefore no longer demands blood for payment of our sins. We are justified, which means we are no longer seen as guilty, but are declared as having right legal standing before God. Our sins are forgiven. That happens instantaneously, the moment we are saved by grace through faith.

Gods work in us and on us, and his demands from us are not finished in that moment. We are freed from the curse of sin and the condemnation of the law, but God calls us to follow the law. The law is good and Holy and is not a method of salvation. And so we are called to follow it in order to grow in Holiness, to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, as Paul will tell us later in Romans.

Sin loses its grip on us and we grow in our walk and relationship with Christ. This is a process, it is not an instant. This starts in that instant and it continues for the rest of our lives. This is Sanctification.

We are no longer condemned, but are now citizens of the kingdom of God. If we are in Christ. The unfortunate reality is that many people are not in Christ. Many people dont believe God exists, they see no reason to believe in sin or that they are sinners. Other people believe in God, may even belive in Jesus, but consider themselves good enough people that they have no need to repent, or to change their lives, or church or anything that would impede on their lives.

The problem is that morality without being in Christ leads down the same wide and easy road that leads to destruction as does unbelief and immorality. Again, Jonathon Edwards says that “The only thing we contribute to our salvation is the sin that makes it necessary.”

Without Christ, we are in a state of natural rebellion. Both those positions I just described are states of rebellion. I don’t need Christ because he and sin don’t exist. I don’t need Christ because Im good enough without him. The only right view and lifestyle is I need Christ. Period. For everything. I am nothing without him. He gives me everything.

Without Christ there is only condemnation. Without Christ, we all deserve and will only receive eternal torment and the weeping and gnashing of teeth that Jesus talks about in Hell. Without Christ there is no hope, no salvation, no assurance and no future.

And yet, there is now no condemnation in Christ. This verse stands alone with no buts if we understand what it means to be in Christ. He tells us that we are to take up our cross daily. We will face resistance and persecution. We will see it unfair that we can’t treat others in the negative way that they treat us.

We are called to live a holy life, set aside from the society and culture around us. Different. Bearing the Fruit of the Spirit. And we cant do it ourselves. We have to lean on the grace and mercy of Christ, the empowerment of the Holy spirit. We cant do it, but we are called to do it. Christ will help us do it. Because we will not become sinless, we will get down on ourselves, maybe even feeling that condemnation that has been taken away.

I like the way Derek Thomas says it:

We are Christians; we believe in Jesus Christ, and there’s no condemnation. But then we sin, and we revert to a state of condemnation again, so we try to do a little better. We come to church, we read our Bibles, we sing more lustily one of the hymns. We have nice thoughts about Jesus. And then we slip back into a state of no condemnation again. But then tomorrow we sin again, and we slip back into a state of condemnation, and we try to do some more good things and try to love Jesus more, and read perhaps an extra chapter of the Bible. And then we slip back into a state of no condemnation again. That’s performance mentality. It dogs us, doesn’t it? It hounds us all the time. We can hardly believe our eyes; we can hardly believe our ears when we read here in Romans 8 not just about the state of justification, but about the state of sanctification, about the reality of our condition now as ongoing sinners: there is no condemnation. If you are in Jesus Christ, there is no condemnation. Yes, I have sinned. Yes, I have fallen short of God’s glory. Yes, I have come to Jesus Christ. I have put my faith and trust in Him, and I continue to sin. I fall short this morning, even now. Even at this very minute I fall short of the glory of God. But I am in Jesus Christ, I am resting in Him, I am trusting in Him, and there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.

First off, if you are not in Christ. Please change that. Stop rejecting the Gospel and Christs completed and sufficient work on the cross that he did for you. Call our to Christ. Do as he said, Repent and Believe! The Bible says in Proverbs that we are to trust in the Lord with all our heart, and lean not on our own understanding. You cant do it yourself and it has eternal and dire results. Open the Bible and read God crying out to you. Paul writes later in Romans that Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ. See Gods Word for what it is, His revelation of himself to us so that we can know him and trust in him. If you have any additional questions, you can come talk to me afterwards or anyone that you have seen up here on stage this morning.

Second off, therefore, there is now no condemnation in Christ. If you are in Christ, Paul is writing and has been writing to assure us that we are not in Christ because of ourselves but that it is a wonderful, incredible, undeserved gift from God. Because it is a gift, because it is all from God, we can have an assurance of our salvation in Christ. There is no condemnation, there is no being snatched out of the hand of God, there is no God taking back his forgiveness. We will get more into that coming up in this chapter.

But there is more to it as well. What are some the best gifts you have ever received? When you got the gifts, did you hide them and keep them a secret? Of course not. You went and told people. You were excited, you wanted others to know. We are called to do the same with our faith. This literally a matter of life and death. Eternal life with Christ, or eternity in Hell.

Charles Spurgeon shows how we should be looking at this, crying out: “If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.”

Being in Christ changes us from the inside out. Sometimes the fruit that we are supposed to be bearing, don’t always show up immediately. But there will always be fruit. AW Tozer says: The Holy Spirit never enters a man and then lets him live like the world. You can be sure of that.

Lastly, If you are in Christ, Rejoice! Thank God! Sing praises to him, honor him, worship him! Sing the songs we sing here as we are gathered in worship. Lift up your voices and make a joyful noise! Honor him by following his commands, including reading his word, gathering together with the saints and living a holy life that HE gets to define, not us. Worship him by putting him above all else. Not work, not school, not house,, not football on Sunday mornings, not fishing, camping, or being out on the lake, not sleeping or family and friends, nothing goes before God.

Im going to leave us with more scripture, Paul writing to the Ephesians, Ephesians 2:1-10, he writes:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body[a] and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.[b] 4 But[c] God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Lets Pray

Romans 7:14-25 The Struggle Is Real

Editors Note: I am having issues with my phone this afternoon. I have the sermon recorded, but due to technical difficulties, (i.e. children throwing phones on hard surfaces) I am not able to get the sermon from the phone to anywhere. If this gets resolves, I will upload the sermon and edit this post. Thank you for your understanding.

New edit: After all this time, my phone was fixed and I was able to the sermon audio  off the phone and onto the computer. Here it goes!

Romans 7:13-25

The Struggle is Real

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and open them to Romans chapter 7. If you do not have a Bible with you there should be one under your seat or a seat nearby. If you do not own a Bible, we have a pile of black Bibles on the back table that we would be honored to have be our gift to you.

Now, if you are anything like me, Paul is an interesting writes. He has times of forceful, upfront bluntness. There is no mistaking, no misunderstanding, no confusing what he is saying. We saw many of those moments in the first few chapters of Romans. Other times, he waxes poetic, talking theology and philosophy and different things that can be hard to understand. For me, at times, trying to follow one of his sentences can give me a head ache at times.

I think we have a combination of those two things here this morning. Paul is clear about what he is saying in general, but to try and follow along his sentences, and it can get kind of confusing. But his overall point is clear and one that, I believe that hits each of us right in the gut. Then again, maybe your all just better Christians than I.

But before we jump into the text, lets put the passage in its proper context. Sin is bad. Sin is breaking Gods laws. We have all broken Gods laws. We have all sinned. Therefore, none of us deserve or have or can earn our way into eternal life with God. No so called good works we do can have any affect or our eternal standing before God. We stand before guilty. And God is a just God, so guilt must be dealt with. But God is also a God of Grace and mercy, so gives a gift of grace. By Grace alone have we been saved. Because God said so. And the vehicle he uses to deliver that grace is the gift of faith in Jesus Christ.

By Grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone. The law has no effect on our salvation. Instead, if you have been saved, you were created to do good works that God had plans for you since before the beginning of the world. Jesus says if you love me, keep my commandments. SO, we have an obligation to live out the commands, the law of God.

And yet, we dont have the ability, especially on our own to fulfill the law. Thats why Jesus came, to fulfill the Law as he says in Matthew 5. He had the righteousness required to satisfy a Holy God. On the cross, that righteousness was imputed on to the aforementioned those who have received grace by faith. Now, our legal standing has changed from guilty, for All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, to now, God looks at us and as we stand before him, covered in Christs righteousness, he declares us innocent.

And that, my friends is the beginning of our walk with Jesus. It is the point of our transformation and our regeneration. It is the point where the Holy Spirit comes in and turns our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. And thats when we are freed from the bondage of sin and the weight of the law. Thats when we are free to live our lives the way that God intended and Christ allowed and the holy Spirit intended.

Thats the beginning of our journey. The hardest work, the work of salvation is done, and by no effort of ours. But there is hard work ahead of us. Living the life that Christ has freed us to live. To follow him and his commandments. And its both as easy as that and as hard as that. But before we get into that, lets go ahead and read our passage this morning, as Paul shows us from his personal example that we continue to struggle with our sin nature, even after we have been freed from its bondage.

So Im going to read Romans chapter 7, verses 13 through the end of the chapter, verse 25. Ill be reading out if the English Standard Version. Romans 7:13-25.

Paul, starting by talking about the law, writes:

Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

So remember the context of Romans 7. The law is designed by God and it is good. It is there to be a mirror and reflect our inability to keep it. It is there to diagnose the disease of sin and point to the cure. The one who is able to keep the law, Jesus Christ. Paul has shared that we know about our sin because of the law. He has shown that we are inventors of evil. And that we actually look to the law, at times to find different ways to sin.

So, the law, which is good, must be bad, right? The law, which is good, must be the source of our sin and our death, right? No! The law is good. Paul tells us in 1 Timothy that the law is good, IF It is Used lawfully.

Death came from sin. Sin entered the world through Adam. Sin is so corrupting, so all encompassing that it corrupts even the good things of this world. Sin corrupts so completely that even the law, which is holy and divine and given to us by God, to show how all things are supposed to work together, even the law is corrupted and we use it for evil.

Remember the other thing the law is for, when there is no sin, or after we have been freed from the bondage of sin and we have been freed from the bondage of the law, that the law is there to guide us, to show us how God designed all things to work. The law is there tho show that God is not a God of chaos, or disorder, or everyone do what is right in their own minds. God is a God of order, of rhythm. He is a God who knows everything and is in all time. Tim Keller says, “If we knew what God knows, we would ask exactly for what he gives.”

So we know that if we live by and follow God in the way that he wants us to, things just work better. Now, dont worry, Im not going all prosperity gospel on you. Im not telling you that if you believe and pray that you will get your best life now or that God wants every one of us rich and in big houses, driving Ferrari’s. Because here is the thing. Its not just about us. We are not the only sinners in the world. The rhythm of this world that was broken when Adam brought sin into the world affect every person. And so, even if we were able to live by the law completely, others still dont and so there is still sin and brokeness in our lives and around us. But Gods laws, his rules, his Grand Design is there for a reason and it is for our best interest that we live according to them.

Heres the problem. We cant. I mentioned a second ago, the all consuming corrupting power of sin. We see that in our flesh still today. Before we are justified, before the Holy Spirit changes us, we do not have the ability to not sin. We are, as Paul mentions in Romans 1, inventors of evil. Monergism.com, a website with many commentaries and what not, summed his up better than I can when they wrote:

It is self-evident that if humanity, as a unit, decided to obey all of God’s laws then almost all social ills would disappear overnight: Greed and hunger, sexual perversion and related disease, adultery, rape, covetousness and theft, murder, racism and all forms of malice etc. These would be replaced with love, unselfishness and honoring the image of God in every person. The problem is, however, that obeying God’s law is wholly UNNATURAL to us. Our nature is repulsed at living this way even though we know with certainty that it would help resolve almost all social ills entirely. Being unnatural means not only are we unable to live according to God’s laws but also that we do not WANT to live according to His laws. This fact demonstrates that the solution to man’s ills are not to be found in himself or better education. In fact, history demonstrates that the better educated just seem to find more crafty ways of doing evil. No the “natural solution” to man’s ills is proven to be bankrupt and our only hope is a supernatural one, outside of ourselves. This testifies to the validity of the Bible as the solution to our ills because it so understands human nature as it really is and points to our only solution: Jesus Christ.

What was unnatural to us before, our desire and ability to follow Gods laws, now start to fade away. We are in the process of being changed from being of the flesh to being of the spirit. The change and the process has started, but in our daily, practical, physical lives, it is nowhere near complete. Our sin nature, our flesh is still in us, still working to fight against us, still corrupting us to sin.

But, if we are justified and regenerated, we will no longer have a taste for those sins. We wont want to do them any more. We will have a desire to Gods Will whatever it is. We will have a longing to follow him. We will hate our sins and work to eliminate them. This wont all happen at once, mind you. Somethings the scriptures are clear on. Dont do them. This is obvious. And when we are saved and we read our Bibles, we will see this and we need to stop.

One easy example. Say you arent a Christian, and you are living with and sleeping with your boyfriend or girlfriend. Then you become a Christian. Maybe you already know that the Bible says not to have sex outside of marriage. Then you need to stop. If you dont know the Bible says that when you become a Christian, very shortly afterwards, through reading your Bible, and listening to biblical teaching and through disciplship and all that, you will quickly learn that and then you need to stop.

You may still want to, but more than the desires of the flesh, as we grow in our walk and relationship with Jesus Christ, our desires for the spiritual, namely Gods law, which it says here is spiritual, will be stronger and more in the forefront.

But there are also things that the Bible is less overtly clear and specific. When I became a Christian, I was a smoker. And that was not something that changed immediately. I quickly became a volunteer with the youth group at my church and about a year into to that journey, I had a dream. Now, I very rarely remember my dreams, so the fact that I did this time is significant in its own right. But I had a dream that I came out of a store and one of the kids in my youth group was off to the side smoking. That image hit me like a punch in the gut and thats when I felt the Holy Spirit convicting me of my smoking and I knew it was time to stop.

That didnt mean that I was able to put them down and stop immediately. It was a process. Many stops and starts. I knew what I was supposed to do, but I was not always able to do it. And As I had a cigarettes after that, I hated it even as I was smoking it. As Paul says, the things I do not want to do, I do. Things I do want to do, I do not do.

CS Lewis: THe natural life knows that if the spiritual life gets hold of it, all its self centeredness and self will are going to be killed and its ready to fight tooth and nail to avoid that.

Sin has corrupted our flesh so much that, until we are glorified into our heavenly, eternal bodies, we will not fully be able to resist sin and its temptations. Again, it does not come naturally to obey and desire Gods Will. Dieterich Bonhoeffer says, You can only learn what obedience is by obeying.

Now, it can be real easy to look at this passage, it can be easy to see that we will continue to struggle with sin and say, well, that means I dont have to try, because I wont succeed any way. No! It can be easy to look at this and say The Law brings death, or the Devil made me do it, or anything else that we can in order to shirk our own responsibility.

We have been trying to pass the buck, to shirk our responsibility and blame anyone and everything else for our sins since the fall in Genesis 3. After Adam and Eve gave into temptation and ate the fruit of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they now knew that they had done wrong. When God comes looking for them and talks to Adam, asking him what he had done, what is Adams response? Essentially, “It wasnt me, it was the woman that YOU gave me!”

Right there Adam shifts the blame off of himself and onto both Eve and God. But God makes it clear that we are responsible for our actions and that there is no one to blame but ourselves. We cant blame God, we cant blame the devil, we cant blame our friends, family and spouse, we cant blame Adam or Eve, we cant blame Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals, this president or the last one. We cant blame anyone for our actions but us.

Now, Paul has already established, some may say, hammered home the point that we are all sinners and cannot contribute anything towards our salvation. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. But one of the things that he is establishing here and we will look at more in depth in a number of weeks, is that we do not have the ability to keep our salvation once we have been given it by God.

There are some that teach that we are saved by grace along with works, or saved by grace and kept by works. Both of these are fundamentally and biblically wrong. We are saved by grace and kept by the power, love and strength of God.

WE progress and sin lessens in our lives as we walk and grow with Christ, but it doesnt entirely leave until we stand before God in glory.

Remember what Justification is. It is God declaring us as innocent. Not us actually being innocent, but God declaring us innocent. It means that we now have a right legal standing before God. Our slate has been wiped clean and God sees us covered in Christs righteousness. But, if that was just to bring us current, if that is just to wipe clean our previous sins and not to wipe out all of our sins, then we still would not have salvation. Instead, minutes, moments, seconds, after that moment in time, we would already have sinned and been guilty before God.

Instead God saves us, and doesnt just bring us up to current, but wipes the slate clean for the past, the present and the future. God holds us and nothing can snatch is from his hands. God is the most powerful being in the universe. If he has hold if us, than there is not a thing in the verse that can undo what God has done.

So we cannot keep ourselves saved because of this eternal struggle between the flesh and the spirit. We trust, not in our own desires, our own feelings, our own abilities. We trust in God the Father, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, God incarnate. We trust in God the Holy Spirit, who changes us from the inside, working on conforming us to the image of God. We trust in the bible, Gods revelation, his Word to us and what it tells us in regards to salvation, the revelation of God and who he is and what a Godly life and a God pleasing life looks like. We trust the Bible to show us, not only the law, but also, what the purpose of the law is.

John Piper writes about this:

This was the aim of the Law: that we might come to see the glory of Jesus Christ the Lord as the foundation and the focus of our justification and sanctification. And not only the foundation – providing a perfect righteousness and sacrifice – and not only the focus – providing an all-satisfying object of faith – but also the veil-lifting means of seeing and savoring himself – this is “from the Lord, the Spirit.” Seeing the Lord is from the Lord.

This is the aim of the Law and this is the aim and essence of the gospel and this is the aim of Education for Exultation: generations of children and youth and adults who study the Word not for its own sake, and not as the primary and decisive means of bearing fruit for God, but as a reflection of a living person, Jesus Christ, whom to know – not just know about, but know – is life eternal.

Paul, writes about this struggle and then cries out, Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  On our own, we are wretches. On our own we have this body of death. On our own, we are and have nothing. But Amazing grace! How sweet that sound! That saved a wretch like me.

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. 

If there is one thing to take away from Romans chapter 7, from all of Romans for that matter, its the first part of verse 25, Thanks be to God through jesus Christ our LORD. Its all about and from him, nothing about ourselves. I once was lost, but now Im found. Was blind, but now I see.

T’was Grace that taught…
my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear…
the hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares…
we have already come.
T’was Grace that brought us safe thus far…
and Grace will lead us home.

The Lord has promised good to me…
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be…
as long as life endures.

When we’ve been here ten thousand years…
bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise…
then when we’ve first begun.

Lets Pray

Romans 7:7-12 The Law is Good

Romans 7:7-12

The Law is Good

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles and turn with me to Romans, chapter 7. If you do not own a Bible, we do have a stack of Bibles on the back table that you are free to take as our gift to you. As we continue through Paul’s letter to the churches in Rome, we need to remember a few things. First, context matters. If we looked at last weeks passage and didn’t look at this weeks passage, or this weeks scripture reading (Psalm 19:7-11) or the rest of scripture, then we could make the false assumption that Paul will address here in a moment.

Second, Paul’s analogies, his illustrations are inspired by the Holy Spirit. They are written in the Bible and therefore are inerrant. The illustrations that I am going to share this morning, I believe are helpful and, for the point I’m trying to make, accurate, they are far from inerrant.

Paul is dealing with some very real, very practical, internal struggles within us as human beings and our permanent struggle between our sinful, human nature and our justified, regenerated, redeemed, heavenly spiritual nature.

Again, last week we saw that Paul was telling us that we need to die to the law, just like we need to die to sin. What that was, in essence, is telling us what the law is not. It was kind of like a part 1, to this weeks part 2. Paul showed us that if we are trusting or depending on the law to get into Gods good graces, than we don’t have a saving faith in Christ. We either have faith in our selves and our ability to keep the law, or we have faith in Christ and HIS ability to keep the law. Our lack of righteousness or his perfect righteousness.

This week, Paul shows us what the law is for. He shows us that, despite what we saw last week, the law is indeed good. Lets go ahead and read the text for this week, Romans, chapter 7, verses 7-12. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version.

Paul writes:

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

So, again, if we take Romans chapter 7, verses 1-6, and we just leave them as is, we could come to the conclusion that the law is bad, that is causing us to sin, maybe even that the law is sin. So Paul puts that to bed immediately. Not So! He says. The law is not the cause of our sin, but instead, the law shows us our sin.

In my studying over the years, in my reading there have been two analogies that I have heard that I think best describe what Paul is saying here about sin. The first is from renowned Bible Scholar, Warren Weirsbe. He likens the law to a mirror.

So think about it like this. You look in the mirror and you see things you don’t like. You may see some gray hair, some wrinkles, some pimples, a spot you missed shaving, whatever it is for you specifically. You look in the mirror and it will point out your blemishes.

Now, are those blemished there BECAUSE of the mirror? Of course not. The blemishes are there, whether you look in the mirror or not. They are there, whether you know they are there or not. Such is sin.

We look at the law, and in that, we see the sin in our lives that are reflected back at us through the law. Is our sin there BECAUSE of the law? Of Course Not! The sin is in our lives regardless. The sin is in our lives whether we see it or not and whether we know it or not. The law is there to reflect back to us that we are sinners. We would have no way of knowing what the sin is in our lives if we did not have the law to reflect back our sin to us.

If you don’t own a mirror, or don’t ever look in it, you may leave the house without coming your hair, without cleaning your face, with out straightening your clothes. And you wont even know it. You might even know that something is wrong, You might have a sense of being disheveled or unkempt, but without a mirror to look in, you wouldn’t know what you have to fix.

But if you own a mirror and look in it, you can then see what’s wrong and then you know what you have to fix. You would see that your hair wasn’t combed, or your face wasn’t cleaned, or as is often the case with me, you would see the coffee stain on your shirt.

Our sins work the same way. The law is the mirror in our life that points out the disheveled sin in our lives. Now, our conscience will also help us to discern when something is wrong, but often, that will only give us more of a general sense, at least without pairing it with the knowledge of the law.

But to see the specific sins, to know why we are sinners, to know how we are failing to live up to Gods standards, we need to see what sin really is. To see what sin is, we need to see what God has set up as his standard of righteousness and holiness. The mirror of the law shows us what we are supposed to be. The mirror of the law shows us what we are not doing, where we are falling short. The mirror of the law shows us our every blemish and failing. The mirror of the law shows us how we cannot depend on our righteousness and holiness because we fall short. And Because Christ fulfilled the law perfectly, when it reflected back at him, it showed no blemish, no failing and the mirror of the law shows us that we need to depend on his righteousness and holiness.

The second description or analogy I’ve come to love about the law is from Pastor Matt Chandler down in Texas. Now, he describes the law as a diagnostic tool. (Sermon on 02/26/2012, The Diagnostic and the Cure) He described this in a fantastic sermon on Galatians 2, and ill try to summarize, and condense it, but it might be important to know some things about him. 2 & ½ years before delivering this sermon, this healthy, young, I think early 30’s, father of three and husband blackout and collapsed on Thanksgiving morning. He woke up and, long story short, he had stage 3 brain cancer. He was told there that he had two to three years to live. Just as a side note, praise God, that was almost 10 years ago and he is still going strong and preaching the Word boldly.

He tells this story about the MRI and looking at it with the brain surgeon. And here is what he had to say, I want to get this right so its a bit of a longer quote.

Pastor Matt says:

The MRI showed I had a problem, but the MRI was powerless to cure me. No matter how many times I got in that machine, no matter how many times I got scans, it wasn’t going to cure anything. It was simply going to diagnose something was wrong. Now the Law is holy and it is divine in that it is the holy, divine diagnostic tool that lets us know something is wrong, but the law will never heal you.

Skipping ahead briefly, he continues:

Jesus is the cure. The Law is diagnostic but Jesus is the cure…

When we become aware of the kindness of God, our healing made available to us in Christ, it leads us to repentance. We want to line ourselves up with God, the Law, and how God created us to function, because that is all the law is. The law is this diagnostics tool that shows you your need for a savior, and then once you have that savior, once you have that healing, the diagnostic switches and becomes a path for the fullness of life.

Now, I want to come back to that last point in just a few moments. But first, do you see what happens here? What happens when we look in the mirror and see all the sin covering us? When we look at the MRI of the law and we are diagnosed as sinful and broken, what does the scripture continually show us when we are looking to the law?

We cant keep it. That’s first, but there would be no good news if it just ended there. That’s legalism. We think of legalism as strictly acting or thinking that we need to keep the law in order to be saved. But there is another flip side to that. Its that condemnation, that thought in our brain that says, I cant keep the law so I might as well not try, I might as well give up. There is no point in following Jesus because even he cant forgive me of my sins and my brokenness. Its a diagnosis with no cure.

So the mirror and the diagnostic of the law show us that we cant keep it, but it also points us to the one who did. It gives us good news. When the law is given to Israel in the Old testament, it is all pointing towards the one who would fulfill it. Jesus claims in the Sermon on the Mount, that he IS the fulfillment of the law.

And so the laws design, its purpose is to point towards Jesus Christ, so that we may have faith in him who could keep the law, and we could then repent of our own sins. Paul says it this way in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

So, our sinful flesh, our sin nature, who is now seen in the mirror, who has now been diagnosed, is not ready to just give up yet. So it tries to manipulate, tries to justify us to ourselves. It makes us think that we are really not that bad. Any chance I get to bring my favorite quote back up, Jonathon Edwards, “The only thing you contribute to your salvation is the sin that made it necessary.”

Its like an arrow in the heart every time.

But we look at the law and we think, well at least I haven’t broken this law or that law. At least I haven’t broken as many laws as the person sitting next to me. At least I hide my sins better than everyone else.

Ray Comfort is a street Evangelist who uses the 10 commandments, the law summed up in 10 points, to point out to atheists and non believers that the cannot and have not been good enough.

The exchange usually goes something like this.

Have you ever told a lie? Yes.

Have you ever stolen anything, or taken something that does not belong to you? Sure.

Have you ever hated any one? Yes. Jesus says that hating someone is murdering them in your mind.

Have you ever looked at another person lustfully? Of Course. Jesus says if you have lusted in your heart, you have already committed adultery.

So, you have just admitted to being a lying, stealing, murdering adulterer.

In that exchange, a person is confronted with the holy standard that God has set. They are confronted with their sinfulness, their inability to keep the law or to be good enough. And then they are pointed to the cure, to the solution, to the Good News, the complete and saving work of Jesus Christ.

There is another way that our sinful nature works to fight back against the goodness of the law. Remember back in Romans 1, Paul show sus that we know the truth but we suppress it and in his list of sins at the end of the chapter, one of the things he lists is that we are inventors of evil. Paul says here in Romans 7 that he would not even know what covetous was if not for the law telling him not to covet.

And so, he have the promise of forgiveness and everlasting life through Jesus Christ. And that, so crystal clearly, through no effort or work of our own, but only through the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ.

But Jesus tells us, after he has saved us that we are to follow his commandments. Our sanctification, the progression of our sinful nature being transformed in the image of Christ, this process is not a passive process. We have to be very active and intentional about it. And it wont always be easy.

One of the things we don’t always think about, or remember or know, is what purpose the law has AFTER we have been cured, to continue with Matt Chandlers illustration. We have a tendency to look at the law, to look at Gods commands as a sacrifice. We look at them as if God is trying to keep us from enjoying life or from having fun when the truth is, nothing could be further from the truth.

Think back to Genesis 2. God told Adam that he had free reign in the Garden of Eden with one exception. He was not to eat of the fruit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam was then supposed to tell Eve. The serpent came and tempted her with a two fold attack. The first and most famous was question Gods Word. Did God really say?

But he also questioned why God said it. God was obviously trying to keep Adam and Eve from becoming like him. He was keeping the good stuff from them.

And yet, we see that God was keeping them from that tree for their good. He set up his laws and his commands for a reason. There is a reason that sin, which is failing to keep the law, is a bad thing. God really does have our best interests in mind. It wuld be pretty cruel of him not to. But we know that God is a good God. Paul also writes in 1 Timothy 1:8 that “we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully,”

James Boice says, “True Christianity does not lead the believer away from the law into nothingness. It leads him to Jesus Christ, who, in the person of the Holy Spirit, comes to dwell within him and furnishes him with a new nature that alone is capable of doing what God desires.”

Matt Chandler continues with what we heard earlier, saying, “When the says this is how marriage should work, he is not trying to take from you. He’s trying to give to you. This is how he created it to be. Walk in this. There is more joy walking in it this way than your way.”

That’s why Paul says in verse 12 here, So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. The enemy and our sin nature is trying to turn all that is good and all that is of God, against him, and against what is right and is twisting it, into sin and knocking it of course. Asking, Did God really say? And getting us to wonder what good God is keeping from us.

There is a real battle going on right now, a spiritual battle. Not against flesh and blood but against powers and principalities, against spiritual darkness. The world is fighting God and his Word on every front imaginable.

In the most obvious ways, Gods Word is being just blatantly ignored and suppressed. People are not willing to acknowledge that God exists, let alone that he would have revealed himself in the way that he has.

Others believe that a god, some sort of higher being exists, but what does that really matter to us? Those are the easy to spot battles. But the more cunning, more dangerous and more insidious attacks on God and his word come fom within “Christendom.”

So called Pastors, so called, churches, so called Christians that teach, preach and believe a different Gospel. Whether its denying the sufficiency of scripture, coming up with ideas that only the letters in Red matter, or that the Bible is a good idea, full of myths and legends and parables, that the book was put together by power hungry men looking to subjugate women and minorities. Theses are all very real ideas and beliefs and teachings that are our there.

There are any number of different gospels and different Jesus being preached. Teaching legalism or licentiousness. Teaching that Jesus is not man or that he is not the one true God. Teaching that we have to do something or keep from doing something in order to earn salvation. Teaching that there is no such thing as sin or that everyone goes to heaven or that we have no reason or need ot repent. These battles are going on in our families and in our churches in even inside of ourselves.

And that’s why we need right understanding of the law, right understanding of salvation and sanctification, why we need right understanding of God and his goodness and holiness. This is why its so important to utilize discernment in who we let influence us with their teaching and their views. This is why its so important to come under biblical teaching, to have fellowship with fellow believers and, most importantly to read, study and know your Bible.

When we talk about this spiritual warfare, these battles going on, God tells us many defenses that we can equip ourselves with. Paul writes about it in Ephesians 6, talking about putting on the armor of God. But what is the one piece of offense that is mentioned? The sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God.

The Word, the whole Word and nothing but the Word. Knowing and believing and trusting in Gods Word, his law and his commandments, Knowing that the law is holy and righteous and good.

Ill leave you with one more scripture, 1 John 5:3, John writes, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 

Lets Pray

Romans 7:1-6 Freed from the Bondage of the Law

Romans 7:1-6

Dead to the Law

Good Morning! Lets turn in our Bibles to the Book of Romans chapter 7. One of the first things that we will see this morning is that the section of Romans 7 we are looking at, Paul directly parallels with a chunk in chapter 6. In chapter 6 he addressed sin. He addressed our need to die to sin so that we are free from sin. He used an illustration, inspired by the Holy Spirit to try to communicate Godly spiritual truths to our limited human ability to understand.

Here in Chapter 7, Paul is going to do the same thing, except instead of addressing sin, he will be addressing the law. He is going to use an illustration to communicate his point. He is going to address our need to die to the law so that we are free from the law. And he is going to show how who and what we are in Christ and what he has done for us is infinitely greater than anything the law could ever do for us.

We are only going to be covering a couple of verses this morning, but we are going to be looking at Paul at some of his clear and yet confusing best here. Before we go any further, lets look at the text this morning and then we can dive deeper. We will be reading romans chapter 7, verses 1-6, and I will be reading out of the English Standard Version.

Paul writes:

Or do you not know, brothers[a]—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? 2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage.[b] 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.

4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

So, Chapter 7 takes place in the middle of a section where, Paul’s point is kind of, The Law is there for a purpose. The purpose is not what you have all assumed for however many years, but it is there for a purpose. He has addressed the arguments that since god is good and grace will continue to exceed sin, we should continue to sin so that Gods grace will continue to grow. He has addressed that the law doesn’t matter so we don’t need to follow it. He has addressed the idea that the law is what will save us and bring us righteousness. It wont and it can’t.

And so, if we look at the law as our way to God, if we see obedience to the law as a way to earn our own righteousness, if we see the law as what we need to do in order to be saved, then we have a wrong understanding of the law. Paul points out here that when we have a wrong understanding, when we put our trust and faith in the law and when we think that we can earn anything by keeping, even when we think we can keep it, it is basically a millstone around our neck. It is bondage, it is death.

He has established that if we are justified, if we have been saved by grace through faith, if we have put our hope and trust in Christ, His righteousness and His completed and finished work on the cross, then the law has no hold on us.

The idea here breaks down like this. When we die, we will stand before God and we will be judged by his righteous and holy judgment. We will be judged on 1 of two things. If, as I just said, we are justified and trust in Christ, then we will be judged by Christs imputed righteousness, His blood covering up our unrighteousness. God will look at us and judge us by the finished work of Christ on the cross.

However, if we never did repent of our sins and believe in the Gospel, if we never did see that our works accomplish nothing, if we continued to put our hope and trust in our righteousness and our obedience to the law, then the law and the demand for perfect obedience is the standard by which we will be judged. A God sees all. He will strip everything down and we will stand before, and everything that we have done in the dark will be brought to the light.

And if there was one point that we sum up that Paul has made so far in this letter it is that none of us have any of our own righteousness. We have all broken the law. We have all failed to meet the perfect standard that God has laid out.

Yes, God is a God of love. Yes, God is a God of Mercy. Yes, God is a God of Grace. But God is also Holy. Holiness is the top of the food chain when it comes to Gods attributes. It is the only attribute of God that is repeated multiple times, in succession. Namely, in Isaiah and in Revelation, the Lord our God is referred to as Holy, Holy, Holy. He is never referred to as Love, Love, Love. He is not referred to as merciful, merciful, Merciful. He is not referred to as Jealous, Jealous, Jealous. All his other attributes he is completely and they are true. But one rises above the rest. That is his holiness. Holiness requires meeting that perfect standard and we cannot do that.

So, what ever we put our hope and our trust in, whether Christ’s righteousness or our own, that is the standard by which we will be judged. With one, we cannot succeed in reaching the standard. In the other, Christ cannot fail in meeting that standard.

And it is with that ground work laid down and established that Paul moves forward in these 6 verses. And his main point is that, just like we die to sin, we need to die to the law. Again, he is not saying that we are not to follow the law. God gave us this moral code, this Right and Wrong, this standard of behavior for a reason.

But when we are trusting in the law, when we think we can keep and therefore earn our salvation, then we are bound to the law. We are slaves to it and it keeps us captive, just like sin does. In order to be free from, just like sin, we need to die to it. We law only has that binding power so long as we are alive in it, meaning so much as we are giving our lives to it, depending on it, trusting in it, to do what only God can do. So, we must die to the law.

Here again, Paul uses an analogy here, a Holy Spirit inspired analogy, to try to communicate to our minds what God is telling us here. Last week, he used the analogy of slaves and masters. This week he uses the language and idea of marriage to bring out his point.

Lets be clear for a moment. Just as last week was not about actual slavery, especially in the way we think about, Paul is using marriage as an example, he is not teaching on marriage here. Context matters. If we are married and bound to the law, then we cannot be bound to anything else, especially and including the grace and righteousness of Jesus Christ. What releases us from that binding? Death. A spouse dies and a person is then free from the marriage covenant. The person is then free and can go and marry another person.

So it is with the law. Again, if we are married to the law, we cannot be married to grace and to Christ. Once we die to the law, through death our covenant of works is broken, then we are free to enter into another, a different covenant, the covenant that God had in store for us from the beginning.

John Calvin, in his commentary on this passage in Romans, noted this about the way Paul used this analogy. Calvin wrote, “He (Paul) might have said, in order to make the comparison complete, “a Woman after the death of her husband is loosed from the bond of marriage: the law, which is in the place of a husband to us, is to us dead; then we are free from its power.” Calvin through out his commentary also used language such as that, in death to the law, “The bond of the law was destroyed, ; not that we may live according to our own will, like a widow who lives as she pleases while single; but that we may be bound to another husband; nay, that we may pass from hand to hand, as they say, that is, from the law to Christ.”

Paul, after issuing this illustration, continues in verse 4,  Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.

Paul again uses language and arguments that goes back to the previous chapter, when he brings in the symbolism of baptism. Now, we didn’t really spend much time on this, so let’s go back and read Romans 6:3-5, where Paul writes, Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

Jesus came down from heave, incarnated as a man, not primarily as an example, but instead as a sacrifice, as a substitute. However, he is also an example. He was baptized by John the Baptist to show that us being baptized is an important part of our spiritual relationship with Him. And we see in the act of baptism some incredible symbolism and parallels to what Jesus did here on earth. We see in the act of being baptized, death, burial and resurrection. The reason that we get baptized after we are saved is to show outwardly, symbolically, what has happened inside us. That we have died to sin, and as we see here, to the power and bondage of the law. That our old, sinful selves are buried and done with. And we are resurrected, or born again as married or bonded to Jesus Christ. We are new creations in Christ. Paul writes in Galatians 2:20, I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

So we have died to the law, and have been brought back to life through and with Jesus Christ. And Paul gives and application. He gives a why here at the end of the verse. In order that we may bear fruit for God.

Thats our mission while we are here on Earth. Of course, if we are bearing fruit for God in our lives, that will fall under the umbrella of what our created purpose is, the reason God even created human beings, and that is to give glory to God in all that we do and in all who we are.

Paul again brings out the before and the after. He shows the only two choices. Death or life. Sin or righteousness. Christ or Law. Works or Grace. When we are in sin and bound by the law, the fruit that we bear is fruit for death. We have referenced numerous times throughout Romans the works of the flesh, which could be other wise called fruit of death, that Paul wrote down over in Galatians 5. Do you remember that? Verses 19-21:

9 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy,[d] drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do[e] such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Charles Spurgeon writes “Sin is the transgression of the law. Therfore, out of the law, by reason of our corruption, springs sin. And in our past lives, we did indeed find sin to be very fruitful. It grew very fast in our members and it brought forth much fruit unto death.”

Without dying to sin and without dying to the law, being bound to the power and consequences of the law, we are not capable of anything but sin. And being bound to the power and the consequences of the law, we will therefore be judged in accordance to the law. And as we, and more importantly and accurately, Paul has clearly established, that is a trial that will not judge in our favor.

But, look back at Galatians 5 again for a moments. The immediate verse before the works of the flesh that we just read, verse 18,But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” And then back again to Romans 6, the last verse we are looking at this morning, verse 6, Paul writes, “But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

We have been freed and he who is free is free indeed. We no longer serve sin, bound by the law. We now serve God, bound to Christs righteousness by the Holy Spirit. We are empowered by the Holy Spirit to bear fruit of the grace that has been poured out on us by God the Father. We, again, as Paul writes in the last few verses of Galatians 5, what those fruit look like.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

You know, there is a lot going on in the world today, in the country, in our state especially and probably in our jobs or communities that are baiting us, tempting us into behaving as if we are still slaves to sin. We are not fighting against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities of evil. Those powers and principalities are hard at work to try to get us to bear bad fruit, to respond to those around us with the same intolerance, vileness, hatred, and lack of civility that is being thrown at us from all directions.

And yet we see here, and elsewhere, all through out the Scriptures, that we are called to rise above that. We are called to pursue righteousness, to follow the commands of God. The Holy spirit will allow us to bear the Good fruit that the Bible itself describes. Others will see this and call us pharisees. They will cry “Legalism!” But the truth is that this is evidence that we are free from the law. We are instead called to pray for our enemies and to love those who persecute us. We are called to, in many places, as so far as it is up to us, get along with everyone around us. The strength to do that is not in us, not by ourselves, but is granted to us through the Holy Spirit.

One more quote from John Calvin, as he says, “We ought carefully to remember that this is not a release from the righteousness which is taught in the law, but from its rigid requirements and the curse which thence follows.”

And that curse is what Jesus Christ has saved us from, if we have in fact believed in the gospel and put our hope and trust in his finished, completed work on the cross. That act of pure love, that god so loved us, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, that act on the cross, we will remember here this morning as we do every first Sunday of the month.

Jesus not only knew ahead of time, the Trinity planned before the creation of the World that this sacrifice, this act of perfect love would be required and how it would take place, but Jesus told his disciples that it was about to happen and instituted this sacrament as a remembrance of it.

We remember the sacrifice, the blood shed. We remember what that means to us, as those who have turned to follow Jesus Christ. It means that we have been declared righteous in his sight and we get to spend eternity with Jesus Christ and God the Father.

We often take this time somberly and soberly, because of what it cost Jesus, what he had to go through. We celebrate because Jesus is alive and we get to partake in eternal life with him if we chose to follow him.

Now, Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 11 some things about partaking in communion. First of all, this is for those that have made a commitment to Jesus. This is a celebration and remembrance for what he won, what he purchased when he paid the penalty for our sins and rose from the grave. If you have not made that commitment, out of respect, please pass the plate.

Paul also makes it clear that we need to be in the right state of mind, that we need to be honest with ourselves and with God and about our sins.

I greatly encourage you, as we are passing out the items for communion, take that time to talk to God. Make sure you are examining yourself and you are taking it for the right reasons. Again, please do not be afraid to pass the plate along. There will be no glances, no judgments. What is important is for each of us to make sure that we are in right standing with God.

Paul gives us a picture of Communion in 1 Corinthians chapter 11. In verses 23-25 he writes:

 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for[f] you. Do this in remembrance of me.”[g] 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

So, what we are going to do here, is Mike and Jim are going to come up here. One will pray for the crackers, which symbolize the broken body of Jesus on the cross. They will pass them out and when we are finished we will take the cracker together as a church family.

Then, the other will pray for the juice, which symbolizes the blood of Christ, shed for the forgiveness of sins. They will pass them out and again, we will take it together as a church family.